Tobacco or Tambaku is a stout and viscid annual plant which grows in all parts of India. The Botanical name of this plant is Nicotiana tabacum. The other names by which the Tambaku plant is known in India are Tamak and Tamaku in Bengali, Bujjerbhang in Hindi, Tamaku, Tamaku, Tambaku, Tamaku and Tambaku in Marathi, Tamaku in Punjabi, Pugaiyilai in Tamil, Dhuinti in Konkani, Dhumrapatra, Tamakhu and Kalanja in Sanskrit, Dhumrapatramu and Pogaku in Telugu. Tambaku was introduced into India in the state of Maharashtra and Gujarat in the early seventeenth century.
This plant is stout, viscid annual and it grows up to a height of about 1 to 3 meters with a thick, erect stem and few branches. The leaves are ovate, elliptic or lanceolate, usually 12 to 30 centimeters long, usually sessile with a cuneate base or sometimes petiolate with a frilled wing or auricle. Flowers of Tambaku are white to pale red in colour and are borne in compoundly branched pannicles with a distinct rachis. The fruit (capsule) of this plant are narrowly elliptic ovoid or orbicular and are 1.5 to 2 centimeters long. The seeds are spherical or broadly elliptic, 0.5 millimeters long and brown in colour with fluted ridges. The flowers and fruits are seen during the summer season.
Although this species is presently unknown in its wild state, it is believed to draw its origin from the northwestern Argentina and Bolivia. Tambaku was cultivated in the pre-Columbian era in the West Indies, Mexico, Central America and northern South America. A large number of cultivated varieties have been grown throughout India since its introduction in the present-day state of Gujarat
in the earlier parts of the seventeenth century.
Tambaku plant is of high medicinal value. The leaves of this plant have been used in traditional Indian medicine as a sedative, vermifuge and antispasmodic. They are also considered antiseptic, narcotic and emetic. A decoction of the leaves of this plant is applied locally for the relaxation of the muscles associated with joint dislocation, in order to get relief from pain and irritation of rheumatic swellings, and to treat strangulated hernia, skin diseases and orchitis. Among the tribal inhabitants of Surguja District
in Indian state of Chhattisgarh
, the warmed leaves are applied to the testes to treat hydrocele. The oil extracted from the leaves of Tambaku is very useful for the treatment of arthral-gia, lumbago, gout and rheumatism.